As I was scrolling through one of the many parenting/family-based Facebook groups I belong to, I stumbled across a recent post that raised a controversial topic. It was a frustrated mom who was expressing concern at the potential for Ontario schools to close once again, due to the COVID situation. There was talk of a third wave due to rising numbers of strain variants and this mom, a regularly vocal member, voiced her opinion.
You can guess what happened next. A barrage of comments, for and against. Emotions raging through comment after comment, insults flying and whistles being blown. It occurred to me that while I support the freedom of speech and a healthy debate now and again, there is very much a time and a place. Now the thing that concerned me most was the fact that this particular group was focused on the particular school district I live in, meaning that the majority of the members were parents of kids in that school. So as the educator in the room, my first thought was, what would the kids learn if they saw this conversation going down?
There have been so many times that parents have reached out to me, as the teacher, or the school in general, with concerns about social media and internet usage. While schools touch upon digital citizenship in some regard, it is by no means a central focus of the curriculum. This puts schools in a tough spot when navigating the student activity that occurs outside of school hours. The lines become blurred when a student in the school is behaving inappropriately on social media, but is doing so at home on their own time. We can do our best to educate, mediate and encourage students to be smart about social media usage and safety online, but ultimately, parents need to partner and send similar messages.
It then occurred to me that there are not so many resources tailored for parents out there. So I decided to compile some for you!
Here are some EXCELLENT resources that you can use for yourself or with your children to help them learn the do's and don'ts of internet safety and appropriate social media usage.
MediaSmarts is an incredible Canadian resource that has materials for educators and parents, games for kids, and covers a wide variety of topics ranging from online safety and finding credible information on the web to advertisements and representation in the media. This is always my go-to resource to give to parents when they are looking for support on this topic.
CyberWise is an American resource that covers a great deal of topics in regards to Digital Citizenship. It focuses on the responsibility we have to be safe and respectful online. CyberCivics is their online platform for middle school students that offers a curriculum zeroing in on Digital Citizenship using three levelled modules.
Common Sense Media is a resource for parents that acts as a guide to all popular things in kidland. It rates and reviews popular movies and shows, and writes guides on popular games or apps such as Minecraft and TikTok.
Google offers a free Digital Citizenship and Safety Course. You can take the course as a parent or educator and apply the skills learned to help your kids or students! (BTW, Google offers tons of courses and training for free!).
If you are ever looking for support with Digital Citizenship and Internet Safety in your home, please feel free to reach out.